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Published On: Fri, Feb 21st, 2014

This Day in History: Nightclub fire at Great White concert leaves 100 dead, injuring 230

The Station Nightclub fire on February 20 began after 11pm and consumed the headlines of the following morning as 100 people were killed, 230 injured at the Great Band concert.

In this image from video shot by TV station WPRI, a musician notices fire spreading behind the band Great White onstage at The Station nightclub Feb. 20, 2003 in West Warwick, Rhode Island.

In this image from video shot by TV station WPRI, a musician notices fire spreading behind the band Great White onstage at The Station nightclub Feb. 20, 2003 in West Warwick, Rhode Island.

Among the dead was the band’s guitarist Ty Longley and the show’s ’emcee’ DJ Mike “The Doctor” Gonsalves.

Pyrotechnics were set off igniting the sound insulation of the club, spreading quickly up the walls and ceilings. The fire engulfed the club in just over 5 minutes as the song “Desert Moon” began the set.

The band said they would never play the song “Desert Moon” again. “I don’t think I could ever sing that song again,” said lead singer and founder Jack Russell.

The band has since resumed playing the song.

Band manager Daniel Michel Biechele was sentenced to 10 years in prison as part of a plea bargain, “I know how this tragedy has devastated me, but I can only begin to understand what the people who lost loved ones have endured. I don’t know that I’ll never forgive myself for what happened that night, so I can’t expect anybody else to,” he said in court.

“I can only pray that they understand that I would do anything to undo what happened that night and give them back their loved ones. I’m so sorry for what I have done, and I don’t want to cause anyone any more pain. I will never forget that night, and I will never forget the people that were hurt by it. I am so sorry.”

Club owners Michael and Jeffrey Derderian, were scheduled to receive separate trials. However, on September 21, 2006, Superior Court Judge Francis J. Darigan announced that the brothers had changed their pleas from “not guilty” to “no contest,” thereby avoiding a trial.[

They were both sentenced and served a short sentence in prison. Biechele was released in 2008 after just two years in jail.

A fictional portrayal of the fire was shown on a Season 14 episode of Law & Order, titled “Blaze”.

 

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